You know those cringe-worthy moments when your kid asks your coworker why her hair looks so messy. As an adult you know that brutal honesty won’t last forever. Eventually your kids learn that sometimes the truth is better left unsaid. Until now no one has really pinpointed at what age this shift occurs.
A study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology figured this out by testing how children reacted to two different scenarios. The first would be an artist expressing how saddened she is by how bad her drawing skills are while presenting the bad drawing to the kid. Then an artist who says she doesn’t really care that she’s not good at drawing shows her bad drawings. The kids are asked to separate them into piles of good drawings and bad ones.
The kids in the study were ages 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11. The results showed kids over the age of 7 were more prone to lying to protect the feelings of the sad artist over the neutral one. So there you have it, at 7-years-old the percentage of little liars hit 71% and grew to 75% for the older kids. The numbers also show that at all ages the kids were more likely to fib for the sake of other’s feelings.
While it’s nice to know that our kids want to be kind, it also makes us question if this could trigger a cycle of lying. Could lying to protect feelings turn into compulsive lying? It’d be interesting if they tested these same children in the future during their adulthood to see compare their lying patterns.
Also in the study, kids take after your example. When the children studied heard their parents lie to protect the artist’s feelings, they did the same. What does that tell us? Be careful of your bad habits, your kids are paying attention!